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Book review: 'Willow Springs' by Carolyn Steele is a warm Western romance

By Miranda H. Lotz

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Aug. 9 2014 12:00 p.m. MDT

"WILLOW SPRINGS," by Carolyn Steele, Cedar Fort, $15.99, 288 pages (f)

Peppered with historical tidbits, "Willow Springs" by Salt Lake resident Carolyn Steele is a delicious and clean Western romance that readers may be tempted to devour in a day.

When Crissa Engleson comes to work at Henders Inn in the small Utah town of Willow Springs, her hopes for a new start and a happier life come with her. She quickly catches the eye of Drake, a Pony Express rider and the most prized bachelor in town, and Garth, a sometimes violent and often drunk miner.

But Crissa's future becomes uncertain when a man in a gray suit begins to follow her, bringing to surface a past from which Crissa wants to hide. She must face the pain of her past in order to protect Amy and Will, her new foster children, but staying in Willow Springs may leave her with no hope for her own happiness.

Steele's "Willow Springs" has a fair number of mentioned deaths, but they are not detailed. It has minor, discreet references to violence and rape, as well as prostitution, and one instance of profanity. It should not be mistaken for the erotic romance series with a similar name.

Steele does a fine job of establishing an obvious attraction, unlike the usual love triangles found in many love stories, between Drake and Crissa. It's refreshing to find a heroine who knows her own mind.

There are plenty of plot twists and deceptions that leave the question of just how Drake and Crissa will ever come together.

Steele's book is woven with lovely threads from the past, and her storytelling is a notch above the usual. Her ability to create authentically motivated characters and to keep them moving through an intriguing plot is wonderful. It's easy to fall in love with Crissa and Drake and to find a good measure of compassion for Garth, the antihero.

"Willow Springs" is the first book in Cedar Fort's Pure Romance series of clean, sweet love stories.

If you go ...

What: Carolyn Steele book signing

When: Saturday, Aug. 16, 1-4 p.m.

Where: Barnes and Noble, McIntyre Center, 1104 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City

Web: barnesandnoble.com

Miranda H. Lotz is a military wife, mother of five and book lover who lives in Colorado Springs.

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